Last night I attended Roger Martin's talk on Design Thinking at OCAD in Toronto.
Martin, who is the dean of the Rotman Business School at the University of Toronto, has been championing the notion of Design Thinking, which is the combination of analytic, logical rational thinking, which is based on proof and reliability and intutive, lateral thinking which is based on unprovable provocations and lateral leaps beyond conventional wisdom. He calls this intersection-design thinking.
But I believe that teaching design thinking alone as a process is not good enough.
My critisism during question period was that even though Rotman should be praised at promoting "design thinking" in business, in reality we totally ignore the actual "thinking component" of design thinking. We don't normally teach either rational, analytic thinking (which business is better at) and/or creative intuitive thinking skills (which designers and artists excel at) in public school or high school, with the exception of many "gifted programs" for the really smart kids!
Here's the business case for directly teaching thinking as a stand alone subject: Education studies show that children who are taught thinking skills experience a significant grade point leap/improvement in other subject areas across the curriculum.
You can start teaching thinking skills as early as grade one with the program that I currently use. I just adjust the examples and applications to be age and grade-appropriate.
Teachers design course materials with learning objectives (outputs) but they ignore the thinking objectives (inputs) [ see Instruction-Based Action Guidelines Built on Bloom’s Revised Framework: Setting Objectives for Entrepreneurship Training; Small Enterprise Research 14(2) 2006 by Ed Leach, Faculty of Management,
Imagine a grade one math teacher ignoring the basic operacy skills or operations behind math, which are plus, subtract, multiply and divide-skipping over this foundation and jumping right to teaching numbers. No, we first teach the basic 4 thinking operations behind numbers and then go on to higher order math applications like fractions, algebra and calculus, and (+,-, X, ./.) becomes second natured but still works in the background.
So, when we switch domains from numbers to ideas, concepts, astractions, details, values and notions, why don't we teach the thinking operations or cognitive skills behind the exploration of the depth and breath of ideas and idea generation, just like we do in the math domain. Well we do to a limited extent, but just in the gifted programs, who I would argue need it the least.
Yet, we totally ignore the mainstream student population.
The only excuse that I can think of is that politicians and educators don't want the general population to think for themselves (leave your brain at the door, when you come in to work) or challenge underlying notions or assumptions of how business, government or society works.
Teachers are reluctant, fearful and scared of teaching thinking, because they themselves were never taught how to teach it ..they see it as something mysterious and ambiguous..how can you teach thinking or creativity? It should come naturally, say many teachers. Oddly enough many designers claim that you can't teach creativity or innovation, fearing a loss of prestige, mystery or exclusivity.
Roger Martin's reply was" Your preaching to the converted.....well yes, but to be fair, most MBA programs don't actually overtly teach thinking skills to its students in a seperate course and then integrate these overt cognitive skills across the MBA curriculum in other subject areas.
I asked the crowd of about 200 seemingly intelligent people: "how many of you have ever been taught a thinking skills course?" Out of 200 people, only about 6 people put up their hands, so that's about 3%.
(I'm not sure if Rotman actually directly teaches the thinking skills behind the design thinking process or just the process--Walter Derzko)
The first MBA program in the world that does that will have a distinct global competitve advantage.
When I was director of the Idea Lab at the Design Exchange, we deliverately embedded the teaching and the application of cognitive skills into the idea Lab process.
Think of it as thinking about your own thinking or meta-cognition. Psychologists call one example of this being more "mindful." or "challange"
This reminds me of a recent article in The Chronicles of Higher Education.
"Last summer Ellen J. Langer posted an entry on her Psychology Today blog that caused a minor uproar. A friend had just described a group trip taken to
, many years earlier. "They met a guru and asked a bystander to take a picture of them with him," wrote Langer, a prominent social psychologist and a professor at India . "Two pictures were taken, using two different cameras." Yet when the film was developed, the guru -- who had been standing in the middle -- was missing from both photographs. Harvard University
Langer didn't speculate why -- she didn't propose, say, that the guru had reached a state of such spiritual purity that light passed through him. Her point was this: No amount of evidence would be enough to persuade most scientists of paranormal phenomena, because too many of them were "stuck in soon-to-be-outdated theories." Rather than ignore data that don't fit those theories, she said, "we need to open our minds to possibility."
That's not unusual. In the course of her 35-year career, Langer has repeatedly flouted convention, confident that (or indifferent to whether) other researchers will eventually catch up with her. A petite, kinetic woman with a turned-up nose and a voice like Lauren Bacall's, Langer does not tend to ruminate, and her immediate response when told "No," about anything, is to ask, "Why not?"
Early on she took psychology's prevailing wisdom about decision-making and turned it on its head, setting the stage for later work by researchers in cognitive and social psychology as well as behavioral economics. She is best known for her concept of "mindfulness" -- a term that most researchers use in the context of meditation, but by which Langer means paying attention: consciously looking for what is new and different, and questioning preconceived ideas.
Doing that is more difficult, and more significant, than it sounds. Most of our actions, Langer has shown, are mindless. Mindfulness requires reconsidering everything we think we know. If we did that, she says, all of us could be more effective, more creative, and healthier.
Her research on the effects of mindfulness on physical health, in particular, has had such surprising results that, she acknowledges herself, it "teeters on the edge of believability for some."
In the lexicon of Edward de Bono” thinking skills program, the equivalent thinking operation or cognitive skill behind being mindful would be “concept challenge”. What do we take for granted? What are our assumptions here? Can we challenge that?
Here are two examples of concept challenge as offered by Langer:
Langer has come to question whether any medical knowledge -- about aging, about diagnosis, about the natural course of diseases -- is necessarily true. Medical science is imperfect. Probabilities -- that cells are cancerous, for example, or that a person with those cells will survive -- are abstract mathematical constructs, she points out: They do not account for outliers, and they are based on a limited number of cases, which are analyzed by fallible human beings, who are making judgment calls.
"I am not arguing against medical tests," she writes in Counterclockwise. "I am arguing against mindless reliance on them and the mindless state they lead to."
She is now emboldened to offer an explanation for the results of the counterclockwise study: that the subjects' mental states had direct, physical effects, an explanation that has been borne out in her subsequent, peer-reviewed research.
1)Take eye tests. In a group of studies soon to be published in the journal Psychological Science, Langer and her colleagues showed that people's vision improved when they expected to see better. In one strikingly simple experiment, the researchers reversed the standard eye chart so that the letters became progressively larger rather than smaller. "Now, rather than expecting as they went down the chart that pretty soon they were not going to be able to read the letters," Langer says, "people expected that pretty soon they were going to be able to read the letters." The result: They could read letters that had been too small for them on the standard chart.
2)Take another scientific given: that to lose weight you must exercise more or eat less. In a recent study, Langer and Alia J. Crum, now a doctoral student at
, got hotel housekeepers who reported doing little or no exercise to recognize the physical nature of their jobs: telling half of a group of 84 that their days spent bending, stretching, and lifting were similar to workouts at a gym. Four weeks later, those 42 chambermaids had lost an average of two pounds each, reduced their percentage of body fat, and lowered their blood pressure -- all while reporting no changes in eating habits, even less physical activity during their off hours, and (according to their bosses) the same level of work. Yale University
Source: “The Art of Living Mindfully; Nothing is ever certain, says the psychologist Ellen Langer. We should make the most of that” The Chronicle of Higher Education 56.17 (Jan 3, 2010)
Walter Derzko, The Opportunity Clinic, Smart Economy,